College of Arts & Science -Department of Physics


Courses taught
PHY 101: Physics and Society
This class seeks to introduce to students the basic, foundational and fundamental ideas that have been discovered in physics (till date!) In order to do this, this class will focus on emphasizing a conceptual framework within which to think about physics, rather than relying heavily on its mathematical foundations. Having said that, some basic rules of mathematics (logarithms, fractions, trigonometry, etc.) will still be useful to think carefully about the physical behaviors at hand. By the end of this class you will be exposed to concepts related to motion and movement (classical mechanics), the nature of heat (thermodynamics), behavior of bulk liquids/gases (physics of fluids) electricity and magnetism (electrodynamics), optics and acoustics (waves and oscillations) and ideas of modern physics (quantum/material, astrophysics and the theory of relativity).
PHY 161/162: Physics for the life sciences
PHY 161 and 162 are the first and second part of the two-semester introduction to foundational topics in physics. These classes are pre-requisites for most biology and biochemical majors, including premedical studies. Topics covered range from concepts of scalars and vectors, motion in 1D and 2D, Newton’s laws, ideas of energy and momentum, physical conservation laws, oscillations, waves, thermodynamics (temperature, kinetic theory of gases, the laws of thermodynamics, heat engines), electromagnetism (theory of electric and magnetic fields, direct current circuits, electromagnetic waves), optics (light propagation, mirrors and lenses, interference and diffraction of light) and basic atomic/nuclear physics. Qualitative reasoning will be emphasized along the development of basic quantitative problem-solving skills.
PHY 286: Introduction to Computational Physics
This course introduces basic techniques of computational analysis for solving a variety of mathematical problems encountered in physics and engineering. Topics will range through root finding for polynomial and transcendental equations, numerical differentiation and integration, finding numerical solutions for ordinary and partial differential equations and scientific visualization techniques. Examples will include standard physics problems from classical mechanics, E&M, quantum mechanics, statistical physics and/or biological physics. Particular emphasis will be placed on problems which cannot be solved analytically. The course will also introduce the concept of stochastic processes via examinations of chaotic behavior that emerges in several different dynamical systems. Particular emphasis will be placed on problems that cannot (or are quite difficult to) be solved analytically (i.e. “by hand”).
PHY 430: Special topics: Optical sensing in Biological Physics (with Dr. Paul Urayama)
This is a new lecture-laboratory course for biological physics majors. The course emphasizes the use of non-invasive optical imaging and spectroscopy for investigating a range of biophysical phenomena. Applications of optical techniques for scales ranging from molecules to tissue are introduced. Topics covered include molecular-folding transitions, protein binding with a focus on the optical discrimination of ligand conformations, optical sensing of cellular metabolism, imaging and spectroscopy in turbid tissues including laser speckle flow imaging and diffuse tissue optical spectroscopy.Theoretical concepts in tissue optics, light absorption and scattering, geometrical and physical optics will be covered.
PHY 437/537: Introduction to Thermodynamics and Statistical Physics
The goal of this course is to use mathematical ideas of probability and statistics to formulate a physical framework that can serve to explain the laws of thermodynamics. The course will present an overview of historical ideas and principles that were established in thermodynamics (zeroth, first, second and third laws; energy potentials) and make connections (simultaneously or sequentially) to thermodynamic ideas through formal mathematical approaches using statistical mechanics. Applications of statistical techniques to treat thermodynamic problems in astrophysics, cosmology, optics, atmospheric sciences and/or biology will be illustrated. At the end of this course, it is expected that you will be well positioned for pursuing research and graduate level course- work in statistical mechanics.
PHY 486/586: Advanced Computational Physics
This course develops computational skills needed to “solve” mathematical formulations of common problems encountered across all of physics – particularly to seek solutions for problems that cannot (or have not) be solved analytically. The course will cover examples of well-known problems that are encountered in areas of classical mechanics, electromagnetism, thermal/statistical physics and/or quantum mechanics. The physical basis of these topics might be familiar to those taking upper level classes in physics, but this course will focus on development of sophisticated computational methods for their solutions and their implementation. The computing environment used will be MATLAB.

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